Wouldn’t it be wonderful if you knew a way to get your child to like any food you wanted? 

Imagine walking down the produce aisle of the supermarket and picking up asparagus, kale, or turnips, and knowing that in 6 weeks your child would be eating it enthusiastically.

Researchers have studied the processes by which children come to like new foods.  If you randomly feed your child different foods, you probably won’t hit on the correct formula.  But by following these steps, you can systematically teach your child to like any food.

Lesson 1: Introducing a New Food for the First Time

Wait until your child is hungry.  Hunger makes anything taste good!  Give your child the new food before his meal, as an appetizer.

Make it taste good.  If you’re trying to get your child to be an asparagus fan, don’t just boil the asparagus and plop it down in front of him.  Find a 5 star recipe on the internet and make a delicious asparagus dish.

Make it taste familiar.  If asparagus is covered with your child’s favourite cheese sauce, it won’t seem so scary.  Use ingredients that your child loves in your asparagus dish.

Use fat.  Most mammals, including humans, have an instinct to eat high fat foods.  Covering the asparagus with cream sauce or sprinkling it with parmesan cheese will make it taste better.  Don’t worry about the fat being unhealthy.  Children need more fat than adults, and you can gradually reduce the amount of fat as your child learns to like the asparagus.

Don’t force him to eat it.  It doesn’t matter whether he ignores it, eats a bite, or gobbles up the whole thing.  He’s still learning to like it.  Any exposure to a food will make it seem more familiar, and therefore less scary.

Lesson 2: The Next 6 Weeks

Don’t feed your child junk food during these 6 weeks.  Junk food, especially sweets, will make healthy food like vegetables not taste as good.  A few days without junk food will cleanse your child’s palate and make him more open to the tastes of real food.

Give the food to your child twice a week.  Wait a few days before you give your child the asparagus again.  Mammals have an instinct to wait a few days after eating a new food to make sure it isn’t poisonous.  During this time, the food isn’t as appealing.

Give it to your child at least 15 times.  Scientists have found that it can take up to 15 times for a child to learn to like a food.

Eat the same food yourself.  Your child should see you eating the same food as he eats.  This reassures his unconscious mind that the food is tasty and safe.  Baby mammals have an instinct eat the same foods as their parents because food that their parents eat is not poisonous.

By this time, your child will probably be a confirmed asparagus-lover!  If not, wait for a few months and repeat the process.  Your child’s tastes can change radically over time.  What he doesn’t like now, he may love a few months later.

Julia Moravcsik, PhD